Model history: In an incredibly short time Bruce McLaren had grown out from the youngest ever Grand Prix winner to a full fledged racing car manufacturer. The talented 'Kiwi' had joined the Cooper Works F1 team in the middle of 1959 and won the American Grand Prix not much later, just 22 years old. That record stood for over 40 years. He continued to serve as a Works racer for several seasons, but also developed an interest in sports car racing. In 1963 he purchased the Oldsmobile engined Cooper, better known as the 'Zerex Special' to race in the competitive and lucrative American sports car series. He continuously modified the car and eventually built a completely new spaceframe racer, dubbed the McLaren M1. It debuted in 1964 and was a staggering 3 seconds a lap faster around Goodwood. Needless to say, the McLaren attracted the attention of others and Bruce signed an agreement with Trojan/Elva to produce customer versions of the Oldsmobile engined racer.
By 1966, McLaren not only built sports racers, but also various single seaters, including a Formula 1 car. Thanks to the inception of the Canadian American Challenge, or Can-Am, started that year, the sports car business flourished. The M1 had been further developed, but the larger engined B-spec machine proved to be no match for the brand new Lola T70. The Group 7 class regulations these cars were built to, had very few limitations and the massive engines used, proved too much for the spaceframe chassis. The T70 on the other hand used a modern monocoque design that provided an abundance of rigidity with little to no weight penalty. Robin Herd was commissioned to help Bruce design the M1 replacement, dubbed the M6. Like the T70, it used an aluminium monocoque and a fiberglass body. Powered by a bored and stroked and fuel injected small-block Chevy V8, the new McLaren was more than a match for the competition and Bruce McLaren was crowned champion. The cars were painted that season in a very attractive 'pleasant' or 'papaya' orange, which would become the team's official colour.
While Trojan began the production of the M6B customer cars, the small McLaren engineers worked ferociously to keep the edge over the competition. The new for 1968 M8A was designed around the big block V8, which was to serve as a semi-stressed member, despite being cast completely from aluminium. The new engine produced a staggering 620 bhp as the Can-Am cars inched ever closer to the 1000 bhp/ton marque. One of the striking features of the Can-Am V8s were the huge intake trumpets, which greatly helped to smoothen out the power delivery. Like its predecessor, the M8A used independent suspension and vented discs all around. The fiberglass body was considerably wider to increase the aerodynamic performance and also to accommodate for the massive tires. Bruce McLaren was again joined by compatriot Denny Hulme, who piloted the second Works M8A to the championship. Together they won four of the six rounds that season, with the other two races won by customer McLarens. McLaren and Hulme also won a Formula 1 race each that season in the Cosworth engined McLaren M7.
The Can-Am Challenge was a huge hit and with racing for the World Championship limited to three litre cars, the series fielded the most powerful racers of its day. This attracted a host of (European) entrants and for 1969 both Ferrari and Lola developed new racers to take on the dominant McLarens. Inspired by the innovative Chaparrals, McLaren fitted a high wing on the M8. It was mounted on struts and worked directly on the rear suspension. The large wing was the most obvious difference between the M8A and the new M8B, which was also slightly more powerful and wider again to accommodate more rubber. The rival's best efforts proved to be completely in vain as Bruce and Denny won all eleven races that season. The Can-Am had become the Bruce and Denny show. Bruce won six races and clinched his second Can-Am title. Encouraged by the huge success, McLaren looked for new opportunities and started both a road car and an Indy program.
For 1970 the suspension mounted wings were banned as the constant movement made the susceptible to failure, resulting a sudden and very dangerous loss of downforce. For the M8C, the first M8 customer car, McLaren used the old body with a simple chassis mounted wing. The aluminium monocoque chassis was also slightly different and did not use the engine as a stressed member, giving the customers the choice to use a Chevrolet or Ford engine. The Works M8D had a completely new and wider body with a huge wing fitted between fins rising from the rear fenders. Thanks to its new body, the M8D quickly earned the nickname 'Batmobile'. The big block engine grew in size from 7 to 7.6 litre, giving a tire shredding 670 bhp. The season started off miserably as Bruce McLaren was fatally wounded during a test session with the M8D at Goodwood. McLaren Cars continued and Bruce's vacant seat was filled by Dan Gurney in the first races and Peter Gethin in the remainder of the season. Between them they won three races, but they were no match to Denny Hulme who scored six victories, despite being badly burned during an accident at Indy.
The 'Batmobile' design was further refined for 1971 with the fins now starting at the tip of the front fenders of the M8F. The all aluminium V8 was further increased in size, displacing well over 8 litres. This hiked the power to 740 bhp, which made the M8F the first Can-Am to break the 1000 bhp/ton. Customers could order the M8E from Trojan, which like its predecessor used the simpler and lighter strut mounted rear wing. Two of these M8Es were modified to mimic the M8D's design and were known as the M8E/D. Peter Revson was hired as Bruce's permanent replacement and the orange cars' domination continued. Hulme clinched three races, but was beaten to the title by Revson who scored four wins. He was the first American to win the Can-Am series. In 1972 the 'Batmobile' finally became available to customers. The Works team had moved on to the M20, which used side-mounted radiators and was designed to house a much more powerful Turbo-charged V8.
Having won 37 races in five seasons, McLaren's domination came to an abrupt end in 1972 courtesy of the Turbo-charged Porsche 917s. The German engines production in excess of 900 bhp that season, which was not a match for the 750 bhp derived from the good old V8. Both McLaren and Shadow experiment with Turbos, but that proved disastrous for the big block's reliability. At the end of the 1972 season, McLaren withdrew from Can-Am to focus on single seater racing. Shadow was the only Works team left to challenge the 'Turbo Panzer' in 1973 and Penske Racing's Mark Donohue dominated in great McLaren fashion. The 1974 season was cut short due to the lack of serious competitors and sponsors; Can-Am was no more.
We do not know the early history of chassis M8C-70-08, which is the eight of a total of ten McLaren M8Cs built by Trojan. In 2004 it was offered by Chuck Haines' Can-Am Cars ltd. Fitted with a big block Chevrolet chassis 70-08 was next seen during the 2007 Monterey Historic Races where it is pictured here.
Please contact us if you can provide us with more information on this chassis' contemporary racing history.
Chassis 70-10 was the final M8C built and it was not delivered to its first owner, Warren Burmester, until the start of the 1971 season. He entered the car for three seasons, at first for George Drolsom and later for Tom Dutton. It always sported the number 34 and usually wore a colourful paint-scheme. In recent years the car was restored to the non-original 'papaya orange' colours used by the McLaren Works cars. It is seen here during the 2008 and 2009 Monterey Historic Automobile Races.